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30,000 Runners

081518-Marathon-finish-line

I confess that the picture above was taken last August when there were no crowds. It was the cherished goal of 30,000 runners today, including Erik.

After the Boston Marathon downpour last year, when Stuga40 was properly dressed and I wasn’t, I ordered a gigantic blue poncho and a pair of baggy rain pants from LL Bean. Today was the first day I wore the outfit. It wasn’t needed: the rain let up for the whole time I was outdoors.

Results from Boston Marathon 2019, reported by Hayden Bird at the Boston Globe:

“Men’s wheelchair: Daniel Romanchuk of the United States wins, becoming the first American man to win the wheelchair division in Boston since 1993. He’s also the youngest winner in that category ever.

“Women’s wheelchair: Switzerland’s Manuela Schär won her second Boston Marathon.

“Women’s race: Worknesh Degefa of Ethiopia won in her first attempt in Boston with an unofficial time of 2:23:31.

“Men’s race: Lawrence Cherono of Kenya won the men’s race.”

Erik, a frequent Marathon runner, had the very respectable time of 3 hours, 8 minutes, and 2 seconds.

Here I am honoring Erik’s birthplace with my Swedish regalia, standing in sunshine and expecting rain. My husband took the picture where we usually watch — in Newton, near the Marathon statues.

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Photo: Katherine Taylor for the Boston Globe
Eureka Ensemble, whose mission is to nurture social change, launched a Women’s Chorus that welcomes women experiencing severe poverty and homelessness.

How does one write a headline for a story like this? It’s not exactly about music giving homeless people hope. It’s more that focusing on music — music performed for you and music you make — activates a positive side of who you are. It’s that positive things can lead to other positive things.

During the 2018 Christmas season, there was quite a bit of comfort and joy being spread by music in the Greater Boston homeless community. Zoë Madonna wrote about it at the Boston Globe.

“The CASPAR homeless shelter, a low-slung brick building, crouches on Albany Street in Cambridge. When percussionist Jennie Dorris wheels her marimba through the front door, half of a large central room has been cleared, and a line of grizzled men sits at a long row of tables, watching. An enthusiastic older man in a Boston Strong T-shirt marches up, introducing himself as Danny. ‘Finally, the marimba’s here!’ he exclaims, grinning. ‘I wait all year for this.’…

” ‘What compels me is to take music where it’s needed and treat everyone with respect,’ says founder Julie Leven, a violinist. This year, its eighth, Shelter Music Boston has mounted scores of concerts in shelters throughout the Greater Boston area, including a full schedule in the days leading up to Christmas.

“It’s not the only music group focusing on the homeless around Boston. Eureka Ensemble, whose mission is to nurture social change, launched a Women’s Chorus that welcomes women experiencing severe poverty and homelessness. …

“Eureka’s most ambitious project, according to cofounder and conductor Kristo Kondakci, was a commissioned composition, Stephanie Ann Boyd’s ‘Sheltering Voices.’ Auditions for choral fellowships for women were held at Pine Street Inn and Women’s Lunch Place, says Kondakci, a recent graduate of New England Conservatory who has worked with the homeless since his student days at Boston College High School. Around 15 took part.

“Carrie Jaynes and Rottisha Mewborn are friends who met at Pine Street Inn. When they saw the audition sign-up sheet, they were initially skeptical, they say — they’re used to well-meaning outsiders putting in a few hours and then disappearing. But they went to the audition in March, in a room where the heater was going haywire. To cool it down, Kondakci threw open the door of a nearby freezer.

“And that, Mewborn says, put them at ease. … As Eureka Fellows, Jaynes and Mewborn rehearsed weekly with Kondakci, learning ‘Sheltering Voices.’ They were never treated as anything less than important and independent, they say.

“ ‘We became so desensitized at Pine Street that we forgot how we can be treated like a normal person,’ says Jaynes. At the rehearsals, she says, ‘we knew that we were in this together. We knew that we were all right . . . we could be human again. We could show emotion and not be judged if we cried, or laughed, or showed a softer side of us.’ …

“Shelter staff say that after Shelter Music Boston concerts, the atmosphere is more peaceful, and nights are more restful, notes Leven, who also plays with Handel and Haydn Society and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra. …

“As for the Eureka fellowships, Jaynes and Mewborn say their experiences were powerful. ‘Having Kristo say “We’ll get you there no matter what” built up our trust and our safety,’ Mewborn says. Because Pine Street Inn has a daily lottery, she explains, she never knows if she’ll have a bed to sleep in each night. There’s little in her life she can truly count on. ‘So just having this little safety — even if things are going crazy out here, we can get there — it’s amazing.’ ”

More here.

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Photo: John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Cathy Corbett got her hair cut at HER on a recent Saturday. HER is a weekly event from the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program.

When I think of all the health care I’m able to utilize (cataract surgery today, for example), my heart breaks for people who don’t have coverage. A special program in Boston aims to help homeless women get some of what they need while also lifting their spirits with fun activities.

Elise Takahama writes at the Boston Globe, “Linda Winn … sobered up six months ago, but she’s been battling homelessness for the past year. Winn, a 51-year-old Somerville native, said she’s working with a few organizations to find permanent housing, but for now, she is staying at Woods-Mullen, a South End homeless shelter.

“A few months ago, she discovered a haven of medical care — and free haircuts — just around the corner..

” ‘I started coming a few months ago. I love the staff. It’s been helping with depression, helping with any problem I might have,’ said Winn. …

“In one corner, a group of women played bingo, while others danced and sang karaoke in the middle of the room. A table near the back was filled with markers, beads, and nail polish. Movies were shown in a separate room.

“All these activities are part of HER Saturday, a program that offers a medical clinic for women who have suffered abuse, are homeless, or are in need of health care services, said Melinda Thomas, the program’s associate medical director. …

“The HER Saturday program was launched in February 2016, Thomas said. When it first started, about 30 to 50 women would wander through the doors. Now, at least 100 women — sometimes up to 200 — line up at 7 a.m. every week, she said.

“The Saturday clinic not only gives the women a chance to get manicures and watch romantic comedies but also provides preventative health care services and cancer screenings, which include mammograms and Pap smears. Homeless women have higher rates of mortality from breast and cervical cancer, Thomas said. A medical provider, a nurse, a case manager, a social worker, and a behavioral health counselor are available every week.” More at the Globe, here.

Those of us who can have a medical check-up, a haircut, or a tasty meal whenever we want really should feel gratitude every day. I also feel gratitude for the people behind programs like this, which benefit us all if only indirectly.

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Photo: Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Marc Wallerce (left), owner of the Winthrop Marketplace, greets Jeffrey Carson of Mi-Amore as Carson picks up food for distribution to families that need it.

Wow, there are as many ways to get food to people who might otherwise go hungry as there are people who want to end hunger. It was only a couple weeks ago that I posted about a food initiative in Toronto. Here’s one in Massachusetts.

Alison Arnett writes at the Boston Globe, “In 2014, Jeffrey Carson heard an NPR piece about how much food was wasted in America despite ongoing hunger. It hit a nerve with Carson, who himself had grown up in a family dependent on food stamps and had just had his first child, and he determined that he wanted to do something about it. ‘I wanted my daughter to come up in volunteerism that was part of our life,’ he added, not just something ‘we volunteered for once a year.’

“So Carson and his wife, Suzanne, both veterans, began to work on creating a nonprofit in Winthrop where they live. The idea for Mi-Amore seemed ‘so simple,’ says Carson: Food was going to waste — in the United States it is estimated that as much as 30 percent to 40 percent of edible food is wasted each year — and yet there were people who went hungry. As military officers, both he and his wife were used to finding solutions to problems, Carson says.

“There were many snags along the way, but today Mi-Amore provides food for 40 elderly people, single-parent families, and recovering addicts in Winthrop. Unusual among food relief programs where recipients must go to a central soup kitchen or food aid office open only restricted hours, Mi-Amore’s eight volunteers, all Winthrop residents, pick up the donated food three times a week and deliver it to the homes of the recipients. Most families get at least one delivery of food a week. The program has a board of town residents, and donations of surplus food from the Winthrop Marketplace, several restaurants, assisted-living centers, and schools. …

“Half of the recipients are children. When asked about recovering addicts, Carson says that ‘recovering’ can be a loose term but is quick to recount what one board member, a school nurse, told him. ‘Having food in your refrigerator sometimes is the line between recovering or not,’ she said, adding that the stress of no food can push some over the edge.

“The beginnings of Mi-Amore, in its third year, weren’t smooth, Carson says. After he and his wife did the structural work to set up a nonprofit, he contacted restaurants and other businesses about donating food that might go to waste, surprised when he got refusals or no answers. But then, Carson said, he met two women, Amie Hanrahan of The Arbors Assisted Living Communities and Ann Vasquez of La Siena restaurant, who immediately ‘got it,’ Carson says. … From that beginning, the program started to gain momentum.”

I’m not really surprised that two former military officers have shown perseverance when faced with the challenges of launching something new. As Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton, a former Marine, has often said in the context of what sorts of people he’d like to see run for office, veterans are generally people who are motivated by public service more than personal gain.

Jeffrey and Suzanne Carson strike me as perfect examples of veterans motivated by public service.

More at the Boston Globe, here.

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Photo: Emerald Necklace Conservancy
Starting August 11, five “fog sculptures” by artist Fujiko Nakaya will grace the string of Boston parks known as the Emerald Necklace until the end of October. Nakaya uses a system of pumps, pressurized hoses, and ultrafine nozzles to create her sculptures.

You can make art from almost anything, but you need an artist’s imagination to see the possibilities. I notice that in my grandchildren, who take on creative projects that seem impossible to dull adults — like making a necklace with a heavy rock and some paper. In this story, artist Fujika Nakaya saw the possibilities of fog.

As Graham Ambrose reports at the Boston Globe, “The Emerald Necklace, Boston’s 7-mile pendant of parks built in the 19th century, will soon have a new adornment: a string of artworks made from water vapor.

“This summer, artist Fujiko Nakaya will debut ‘fog sculptures’ at five sites along the Necklace. The immersive sculptures — wafting clouds of machine-made mist — will be viewable from dawn to dusk between Aug. 11 and Oct. 31. …

“Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston hailed the project, calling the Emerald Necklace ‘a crown jewel in the City of Boston’ in a statement to the Globe. ‘Similar to the intent of the Emerald Necklace, art has a connecting power, bringing together people from all different backgrounds and all different places.’ …

“Nakaya, born in Japan in 1933, calls fog ‘the most generous of mediums.’ Since 1969 she has built more than 80 fog sculptures across four continents, transforming open spaces into dreamlike landscapes with custom-designed installations. …

Fog is living and dying. It condenses and evaporates simultaneously, with dynamism and vulnerability. It is a positive and negative,” Nakaya told the Globe. …

“To create her sculptures, which emit fog in controlled intervals, Nakaya uses a patented system of pumps, pressurized hoses, and ultrafine nozzles. Computer software receives weather data and alters fog flow to suit wind speeds, dew point, temperature, and humidity.”

Read about the dramatic origins of the sponsoring conservancy at the Boston Globe, here. The Emerald Necklace was the work of landscape visionary Frederick Law Olmsted, who also created designs for New York’s Central Park, the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and more.

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Photo: Keith Bedford/Globe Staff
Djennyfer Joseph, who is from Haiti, filled an order at the Shake Shack on Newbury Street.

One of the places I volunteer to help adults learn English is Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) in Boston. The students come from all over the world as JVS is a resettlement agency as well as a job-placement agency, but the majority that I have met are either Latino or Haitian.

Although my focus is on helping people learn English, I’ve come to appreciate the way JVS prepares students for the workplace. It actually finds the jobs for them and has many partnerships with companies that need entry-level workers whether or not they speak much English yet. As Boston’s labor market gets tighter, more businesses are seeking out these workers.

Katie Johnston at the Boston Globe provides a window on the phenomenon.

“The lunch rush was just beginning at Shake Shack on Newbury Street and the all-American tasks of grilling burgers and making milkshakes were being handled by a crew made up almost entirely of immigrants — from Haiti, Senegal, Morocco, El Salvador, and Ethiopia.

“But these weren’t just people who happened to apply for a job: All of them were actively recruited by the restaurant chain, including those who spoke little English — a marked difference from years past, when only workers with strong English skills made the cut.

“Like other employers struggling to fill jobs in a tight labor market, Shake Shack has started seeking out candidates it might not have considered before. Spaulding Rehabilitation Network is opening the door to those with criminal backgrounds, in partnership with the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department. CVS is bumping up its efforts to attract workers with disabilities, while other employers are lowering experience and education requirements. …

“As Northeastern University economist Alicia Sasser Modestino puts it: ‘We have gone through all the easy-to-employ people, and we’re down to the hard-to-employ people.’

“And, as it turns out, some of these ‘hard-to-employ’ people make excellent workers.

“Djennyfer Joseph, 22, was enrolled in an English class for just three weeks at Jewish Vocational Service when her case manager called to tell her she had an interview at Shake Shack. ‘I was like, what, already?’ said Joseph, who came to the United States from Haiti in 2016. ‘It was so fast.’

“Joseph, who studied English in Haiti and also speaks French and Haitian Creole, has been at the Newbury Street restaurant for less than a year and is working toward becoming a cross-trainer, a kind of jack-of-all-trades role that comes with a bump in pay from $12 to $14 an hour. Joseph also recently became a certified nursing assistant, a profession in high demand, but plans to keep working at Shake Shack even after she finds a job in health care.

“Shake Shack managers say [the] roughly two dozen immigrants — many of them refugees — that the restaurant has hired through Jewish Vocational Service over the past year are more than making up for the decrease in the number and quality of college students and American-born adults applying for jobs there. …

“Of course, hiring these nontraditional workers can present challenges for employers, who might have to make adjustments for someone who is blind or has a limited grasp of English.

“At Shake Shack, non-native English speakers are taught specific restaurant phrases, such as ’86’ (get rid of) or ‘drop a wave’ (cook eight burgers at once). Many of them speak French, and translations are posted in the walk-in cooler and kitchen: ‘Changez vos gants means change your gloves’ and ‘Bon travail means good job.’ ”

More at the Boston Globe, here. The article also covers “Triangle in Malden, which trains and supports people with disabilities and [is seeing an uptick in] requests for workers, largely from health care and retail companies.” And you can read about how the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department helps employers place promising ex-offenders.

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Photo: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The museum now offers free family admission to new citizens.

The magnificent collections of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts have gotten out of reach for many people as admission on most days has escalated. So it was with great interest that I read at the MFA website about a generous program for one deserving group of people: New Americans.

“Starting July 1, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), [began welcoming] newly naturalized U.S. citizens living in Massachusetts with complimentary one-year family memberships through a new program called MFA Citizens — the first of its kind in the country. …

“Engaging new citizens is part of the MFA’s ongoing efforts to build a more inclusive community of visitors, volunteers, staff and supporters, fostering the next generation of museum-goers and professionals that reflects the region’s changing demographics. …

“New citizens can sign up for the program by showing a copy or photo of their naturalization certificates at any MFA ticket desk within one year of their ceremony.

“In addition to free admission to the MFA for one year for two adults and unlimited children (ages 17 and under), discounts on programs, shopping, parking and dining, and invitations to member events, the MFA Citizens membership includes a special in-person welcome packet in a custom-designed tote bag. Included in the packet [is] information about upcoming exhibitions and programs — available in Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole and Portuguese, the most common non-English languages spoken at home in Boston. On-site signage in these languages will also be placed at the MFA’s Huntington, Fenway, and Schools and Groups entrances to encourage enrollment. …

“The Museum will work with Project Citizenship, the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement and Boston Public Library to raise awareness of the MFA Citizens program among the approximately 25,000 immigrants who are expected to go through the naturalization process across the Commonwealth within the next year. …

“In addition to hosting ESL classes and conversation groups, Boston Public Library’s Central Library in Copley Square and 24 neighborhood branches house Immigrant Information Corners, which provide information about resources and services available to help advance the well-being of the city’s immigrant residents.”

They don’t put this initiative in terms of the current controversies swirling around immigration, but to me it feels like an institution taking a positive stand in a troubling climate. I hope it will catch on.

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